Bedford Green Goddess SYH 297 in RAF Livery at Woolpit 09 - IMG 1420

A Green Goddess at the Woolpit Steam rally 2009

The Green Goddess fire engine, or more correctly Self-propelled emergency pump was introduced in the 1950s to replace the war time (2nd World War) AFS (Auxilary Fire Service) trucks used to supplement the fire service in times of emergency or civil disasters.

The Green Goddess is the colloquial name given to the Bedford RLHZ Self Propelled Pump, a fire engine used originally by the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) and latterly by the British Armed Forces. These green-painted vehicles were built between 1953 and 1956 for the Auxiliary Fire Service. The design was based on a Bedford RL series army truck.

Auxiliary Fire ServiceEdit

The Auxiliary Fire Service was established as part of civil defence preparations after the Second World War, and subsequent events such as the Soviet Union detonating an atomic bomb made their presence as part of Britain's Civil Defence an important role supporting civilians. It was thought that a nuclear attack on Britain would cause a large number of fires which would overwhelm the ordinary fire service, so a large stock of basic fire engines was ordered to form a reserve capacity. They were in continuous use by the AFS until disbandment in 1968 by the Harold Wilson Government.

The Green Goddess machines were not primarily fire engines (AFS members referred to them as 'appliances'); they are more correctly titled "self propelled pumps", some Two-wheel drive and others in Four-wheel drive (4x4) form. Their main role was to pump huge quantities of water, from lakes, rivers, canals and other sources into cities hit by a nuclear attack. The machines could be used in a relay system over a number of miles, with Green Goddesses at regular intervals to boost the water pressure. Fire fighting was a secondary role.

Operational use Edit

Prior to disbandment, the AFS used the 'Green Goddess' extensively in support of the local Fire Services throughout the UK. They provided additional water delivery and fire fighting capability at times when the regular Fire Brigades had a major incident to contain. The ability to relay large quantities of water over considerable distances was invaluable in some more remote locations or where the incident required more water than local water systems could provide. Most UK Boroughs had an Auxiliary Fire Service detachment housed alongside the regular Brigade equipments.

After 1968 the vehicles were mothballed, but occasionally used by the Armed Forces to provide fire cover in a number of fire strikes, notably in 1977 and 2002 (UK firefighter dispute 2002-2003). They were also deployed to pump water in floods and droughts. They were well maintained in store and regularly road tested.

The role of Green Goddesses was superseded by new contingency arrangements. The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 gives Government the power to instruct Fire and Rescue Authorities to make their vehicles available in the event of future industrial action. New Incident Response Units introduced after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks offer high power pumping ability among a range of other contingency functions. These new units were used extensively in the 2007 floods that effected large areas of the UK. The new units are demountable on drops type bodies, so the Chassis cab unit can be used for multiple roles, making them more versatile than these old units.

In March 2004, the Government announced that it was conducting a test sale[1] of 40 of its remaining fleet of more than 900 vehicles, and that it was planning to dispose of the remainder. The sale of the fleet has been completed and most of the vehicles have been sold on to fire brigades in developing countries, mostly in Africa.[2]

Technical specificationsEdit

Unlike modern engines they have no radio, no cutting equipment, only a single ladder, and were relatively slow with a maximum speed of around 65 mph (105 km/h), a comfortable cruising speed of 45 mph (72 km/h), no power steering and sensitive on corners. But one advantage that some Green Goddesses enjoy over most modern fire appliances is four-wheel drive. Fuel consumption was between 8 mpg-imp (35 L/100 km/6.7 mpg-US) and 10 mpg-imp (28 L/100 km/8.3 mpg-US), depending on driving style and water carried. They also have less water capacity at 400 imperial gallons (1,800 L) in 4x2 form, 300 imperial gallons (1,400 L) on 4x4 versions, than a modern vehicle and poorer stability due to a lack of partitions in the water tank. The vehicle cabins were made of wood and offer very little protection to the crew in the event of an accident.

Some were later modified by the installation of flashing blue lamps and two tone warning sirens, and alterations to the rear lamps, to bring them into line with then current practice on 'regular' emergency appliances. Mechanically they were designed to be robust and easy to maintain.

The Green Goddess carried a range of equipment from standard hose and branches, through a selection of nozzles to provide different flows and jet patterns, to Light Portable Pumps and Ceiling Arresters. They all carried a 33.5 feet (10 m) extension ladder together with at least one scaling ladder. Some carried additional equipment, such as Hook ladders, radios, large bolt cutters, etc.


The main pump has a capacity of 1,000 imperial gallons (4,500 L) per minute (900 imperial gallons (4,100 L) on 4x4 versions). Normal fire hoses could be used either from the main pump, which had four outlets, or from normal fire hydrants for which an assortment of connecting branches were carried. In addition the machines carried a small Coventry Climax (350 imp gal (1,600 L) per minute pump, with its own petrol engine, which could also draw water from a river or other source, again feeding normal fire hoses and which provided a separate and self-contained fire fighting capability. A 400 gallon water tank (300 gallons on 4x4) was installed which fed small diameter hoses on each side of the vehicle to give an immediate "first aid" capacity to fight a fire whilst the main hoses were connected and brought into use. A stirrup pump was also carried together with a full range of other suitable tools and equipment.


The vehicles were normally crewed by an officer in charge, who sat in the front passenger seat, a driver/pump operator, and 4 fire fighters seated on the crew bench.



Several examples are in various military vehicle collections and with private collectors. These regularly appear at Commercial vehicles events and transport related shows.

List of known examples of PML Green Goddess trucks in preservation
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Registration No. Make-Model or type no Build-Year Engine-Make/Type Weight/class Chassis/Body type Owner
(if known)
Photo Were seen/Featured Other info
NYV 727+ Bedford RLMZ  ?  ? 4x4 Green Goddess pump unit  ? Bedford Green Godess - NYV 727 at Berton Gate 2010 - IMG 7731 Barton Gate Charity Steam Rally 2010 RAF roundals and green livery
NYV 972 Bedford RLMZ 1955 Petrol 4 x 4 Green Goddess pump unit M Humphrey Image needed LHB

were seen Under restoration
PGW 289+ Bedford RLMZ  ?  ? 4x4 Green Goddess pump unit  ? Bedford Green Goddes - PGW 289 at (D19) Woodcote 09 - IMG 8665 At Woodcote Rally 2009 AFS livery
PGW 562+ Bedford RLMZ  ?  ? 4x4 Green Goddess pump unit  ? Bedford RL reg PGW 562 Green Goddess AFS at Woolpit 09 - IMG 1427 Woolpit Steam 2009 AFS livery
RXP 690 Bedford RLMZ year Engine Weight / class Green Goddess / Fire pump Ashley Image needed LHB

were seen Misc
RXP 729+ Bedford RLMZ  ?  ? 4x4 Green Goddess pump unit  ? Bedford Green Goddess reg RXP 729 at Lister Tyndale 09 - IMG 4756 Lister Tyndale Steam Rally Un restored
SYH 150+ Bedford RLMZ year Engine Weight / class Chassis / body type Owner Bedford Green Goddess - SYH 150 at SYTR 11 - IMG 7934 South Yorkshire Transport Rally 2011 Misc
SYH 297 Bedford RLMZ  ?  ? 4x4 Green Goddess pump unit  ? Bedford Green Goddess SYH 297 in RAF Livery at Woolpit 09 - IMG 1420 Woolpit Steam 2009 RAF Livery
reg no here model year Engine Weight / class Chassis / body type Owner Image needed LHB

were seen Misc
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were seen Misc
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See alsoEdit

References / sourcesEdit

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